Animation of Dignity

The aesthetic and political dimension of animated films in the Eastern Europe of the past 70–80 years distinguishes itself with convincing techniques and positions, going far beyond the children's entertainment culture. The present of digital representation and video art uncovers new perspectives of development of radical visual poetics and their political implications.

This paper researches cinematographic animation as an area, in which the problematics of human dignity and its modern interpretations is especially significant. It’s also important to point out that we research not solely Soviet experience (Romasheva et al.) but compare it to European realities that take into account the specifics of a heritage of a closed-off society.

Development of animation practices in the early cinema age coincided with the age of avant-garde as well as with the development of totalitarian propaganda (Dziga Vertov et al.). However, soon afterward a “subversive” line in aesthetics and philosophical subtexts and ambitions of animation comes into power. Taking into account the fact that in animation, in contrast to cinema or theatre, a personality is created without any connection to the empirical prototype or media, due to the lack of “actor-character” relationship and due to complete conditionality of artistic representation, a human image in animation is built “from scratch”. This rule allowed several artists to radically rethink not only the simulation of body or movement but also the social position of an individual. Animation subculture forms strategies of opposition to the totalitarian programming of personality and builds an image of a person who doesn’t comply with the imposed models and values.
A Czech film based on the anti-fascist folklore of the 1940s ("Pérák a SS”, The Springer and the SS, Brdečka-Trnka 1946) is a very curious example of dissident's phantom.

Analysis of most important works of the masters of Soviet animation — Fedor Khitruk, Yuri Norstein or Andrey Khrzhanovsky — as well as the modern heritage of their artistic approach acquires a different sense when they are viewed in the context of significant achievements of other (Eastern)European cinematographic schools and workshops. Special attention is paid to the Yugoslavian, Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian schools (e.g. Dusan Vukotic i Zagreb Film, Tomasz Bagiński, Marcell Jankovics) and studios of Czechoslovakian classics (Karel Zeman, Jiří Trnka, Hermína Týrlová, Jiří Barta, Jan Švankmajer).

Part of animated film production was developing in Eastern Europe since the 1940s on the fringes of official cultural policy. Due to an experimental approach to the expressive means (which in the 1970s caught the attention of Yuri Lotman from the semiotic point of view, but still remain insufficiently researched within the anthropological paradigm of humanities), censorship mechanisms in this area were working in a less aggressive manner. Various “schools” were appearing in the countries of the Eastern bloc and they were developing the animation language not only being aesthetically inventive, often relying on the traditions of European and Russian modernism and avant-garde, but also — being politically brave. The antitotalitarian rhetoric of the masterpieces of eastern European animation and conceptualization of an individual’s role and human dignity are a result of various practices some of which are covered more thoroughly in the paper based on specific examples of historic materials as well as modern works of artists who create in the field of video art and animation.